Being from Chicago and growing up listening to the late Ron Santo, I feel blessed to have been able to listen to one of the all-time best color-men in the history of sports. His presence was felt throughout his long tenure as a player and announcer for his beloved Chicago Cubs.
Inspired by a fellow writer, I started thinking about just what kind of personalities the broadcast booth needs these days. The particular article (found here) I read was about how Scottie Pippen in the booth wasn’t as exciting as it should have been because of his over-critical, pessimistic attitude. Instead, he argued that a more positive vibe was what translated best to a feel-good broadcast.
In a time when a dark cloud covered the late '90s and early 2000s for baseball, and recently over the NFL, it may be more important than ever to have a positive, enthusiastic “fan” of the game performing the color role.
However, technically speaking, Santo’s approach in the booth doesn’t follow the rules of the book (if there is a book, which I am sure there is). But the color-man should create his own rules, his own set of guidelines as to how he engages with his fan base.
I understand that five years of experience in the booth hardly makes me an expert, but in my opinion, color commentators need to be an extension of the crowd with some additional knowledge of the game.
For that reason, Sunday and Monday Night Football game broadcasts just aren’t all that exciting. Now don’t get me wrong, Cris Collinsworth is a fine broadcaster who demonstrates great awareness and understanding of the game. But he lacks enthusiasm and pizzazz that a local, hometown broadcast team can create for their listeners.
Returning to Santo, if there was one man ESPN or Fox or any other station should model their telecasters or radio broadcasters after, it’s him. I know that national game announcers can’t show favoritism, but creating a light, fun environment that keeps viewers/listeners engaged and comfortable is essential for the future of sports on TV and especially radio.
Sports have seemingly begun separating themselves from the fan base that made sports what they are. They say it’s now just all a business, but for a lot of fans this appears to be a negative thing. But the one true friendly, mutual connection between team and fan is the men behind the mic.